Reconstruction: Suspect Interview 2 (Video, 8 mins,1993)
Reconstruction: Suspect Interview2 features an interview with Sir Edward Hollamby- one of London’s best known state socialist architects. As chief architect for Lambeth in the 70s Hollamby was the ‘6B man’ behind numerous landmark modernist estates including Cressingham Gardens and Stockwell Park Estate. Later, his executive powers as a master planner were given full expression with his controversial involvement with the corporate ‘Trickledown’ development of Docklands where he ended his career politically ‘on the other side.’
The interview took place at his home at The Red House, designed by Philip Webb and former home of his socialist hero William Morris. Hollamby describes the profound influence Morris’ ideas had on his early work at the London County Council and later in Lambeth and viewed his role as a public servant designing quality buildings fit ‘for the people’. Reflecting on his legacy, Hollamby believed he was practicing an intuitive early form of ‘community architecture’ meeting local hostility to redevelopment down the pub and talking ‘the people’ round to accept ‘his’ plans for Lambeth. However, Hollamby conceded the Stockwell Park Gardens’ ‘Village in the air’ was theoretically a good idea but wasn’t right for the kinds of people that had to live with it. Super 8 Film footage of the Brixton riots shot by myself in ‘81 features the ‘wrong kind of people’ under siege in the estate throwing missiles at the police coaches being bussed in past Stockwell Park road.
His democratic principles were further eroded sitting on the board of the LDDC (London Docklands Development Corporation) where he found the communities too inward or backward looking – their parochialism he found very beautiful in many ways but felt that public consultation was not practical with such vast tracts of land.
Hollamby’s career personifies and reflects the changing times as progressive social democracy met the new ‘old corruption’ of corporate value extraction that typified ‘counter revolutionary’ London from the late 70s. The film focuses on this cultural and political shift and asks the viewer to assess Hollamby’s role in this power play- is he a suspect? a silent witness or an unwitting accomplice? The hide-a- face graphic blur used in crime reconstructions on TV is inverted so that his face floats benign and God-like in the clouds engulfed in the mysterious haze of the visionary. Borrowing from EP Thompson’s Biography of William Morris a fitting biography subtitle for Hollamby’s story might be ‘From Revolutionary to Romantic’ (Without hope).